Tomorrow's Communications in Today's Limousines

LCT Staff
Posted on November 1, 1990

How important is communication?

According to a survey of limousine operators nationwide, communication is very important in fact, inadequate equipment can cripple a livery service. Consequently, an operator relies on his communication system to keep his fleet running as efficiently possible.

The value operators put on keeping in contact with Chauffeursis apparent in the survey results.

For insurance, only 15 percent of the responding operators plied that they do not have any type of communicationequipment in their vehicles or with their chauffeurs, 83 percent of all vehicles have cellular phones; 70 percent of vehicles have two-way radios; and 63 percentof chauffeurs carry electronic pagers.

Cellular Phones

Throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the rise of cellular phones dramatically increased. Advances in cellular technology made this one-time unique service virtually commonplace. Limousines are no exception — a limousine without a cellular phone for a corporate client can be the kiss of death for an operator trying to build repeat clientele through the corporate market.

There is another important reason for installing cellular phones in limousines — money. Sixty-five 65 percent of livery services make a profit off the cellular hone usage by their customers. Typically, operators purchase a cellular phone and install it in the car, then charge their customers per minute costs for using the telephone. The per minute cost has a built-in profit for an operator. For instance, if an operator is charged $1 per minute to use a cellular phone system, he can bill the client $2 per minute. According to our survey, more than eight out of every ten livery operators own the cellular phones in the vehicles. Operators report that they bill clients approximately 2.5 hours per month, per mobile phone.

A more recent development is leasing credit card phones. With these, an operator does not incur the initial cost of buying the phone, which can be expensive. The survey shows that operators spend an average of $688 to purchase a cellular phone. With a credit card phone, clients must slide their own credit card through the phone to activate the unit. Operators only earn money if clients utilize the phone for more than a certain number of hours. Also, the credit card phone eliminates misuse of the cellular phone by chauffeurs. This can be a problem because 69 percent of operators allow their chauffeurs to use the same phone as clients. Almost one out of every four operators has a credit card cellular phone. The most common feature on cellular phones in livery vehicles is memory dialing capability. This allows the chauffeur to speed dial the dispatcher with just the press of a button.

A more flexible type of cellular phone technology is the portable, or hand-held cellular phone. These phones allow an owner/operator to be in constant contact with the office. Also, these portable units come in handy during multi-car runs that require a dispatcher to be on the scene. With the hand-held phone, he is not tied to a phone booth or to a car. Other operators find the hand-held units ideal for chauffeurs to carry in crowded airport terminals; away from the limousine, the chauffeur can stay in contact with the dispatcher for specific directions for locating a client. Sixty-five percent of operators responding to the survey report that they own hand-held cellular phones; however, operators only tend to have one hand-held unit to every seven mobile phones mounted in limousines. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the operators responded that they rent their hand-held phones to their clients.

Two-way Radios

As previously, mentioned, 90 percent of all vehicles are equipped with two-way radios, making it the most common means of communication utilized by livery operators. Two-way radios are an extremely reliable and efficient method of contact between chauffeur and dispatcher. It gives the dispatcher an uninhibited direct line to the driver without possible cellular delays or busy signals.

One feature many operators look for in their two-way radio systems is a private channel capability. This characteristic is especially important to larger fleets because dispatchers do not have to contend with interference from other companies sharing the same frequency. More than half the operators with two-way radios who responded to the survey disclosed that they look for private channel, and multiple channel capability in their equipment. For those times when the chauffeur is away from the car, 22 percent of operators want their two-way radios to have message capability. Two-way radio units are a bit more expensive than cellular phones however. Operators report paying between $1100 and $1200 for their average mobile two-way radio set-ups.

Again, as with cellular phones, hand-held two-way radio units are becoming more popular among livery operators. Six out of every ten operators responding to the survey report that they own walkie-talkie type two-way radios. Again, flexibility is cited as the biggest reason.

Electronic Pagers

The least expensive method of communication utilized by livery operators is electronic pagers. Surprisingly, only 61 percent of operators require their chauffeurs to carry a pager. There are two possible explanations for this. First, the reliability of cellular equipment and two-way radios make pagers unnecessary for some chauffeurs. Second, the time lag involved in having the chauffeur find a telephone in order to call the office is too long. However, pagers make an effective means of communication for operators who can’t spend a lot of money on an elaborate communications system.

Similar to cellular phones, operators have an option between purchasing or renting paging equipment. Among respondents, the average purchase price for a pager is $160. For those who rent pagers, the average cost is about $15 per month. Over half of the responding operators pay for their chauffeurs’ pagers. Electronic pagers come with varying capabilities — LED display, beeper, etc. Operators prefer pagers that provide an LED readout with the phone number or a short message, and pagers with multiple message capability.

A communication system is an important part of any successful livery operation. Once the initial investment is made for cellular phones, hand-held phones, two-way radios, hand-held walkie-talkies, or electronic pagers, operators report that they can maintain their systems for only $16 per month, per car. Communications in the 1990s is going to become increasingly important. Operators can probably expect to make investments in portable fax machines and lap top computers.

In order to help livery operators with the important choices that must be made when purchasing a communication system, Limousine & Chauffeur has compiled a list of some of the various types of communications equipment available on today’s market. Included in the roundup are mobile, portable, and transportable phones; two-way radios, electronic pagers, and other equipment.

Fax Machines

Nissei Electric

Nissei Electric of Closter, NJ, is offering an 8.5 pound portable fax machine. The NX-305 can be operated from anywhere, including public and cellular phones. The fax machine comes equipped with an internal rechargeable NiCad battery or can be plugged into any 110/120 volt AC outlet. Other features include a 16-level gray scale, auto-answer, copy mode, a maximum transmission speed of 9600 bps, and a carrying case for the 14 inch ´ 7 inch ´ 3 inch machine.

Also offered by Nissei is the Handy Coupler. This pocket-sized, lightweight acoustic coupler allows connection between a modem and any type of telephone system for PC data communication. It uses four 1.5-volt AAA-type batteries and weighs only half a pound.


The portable facsimile, Acces’ F10 from Mitsubishi International Corp., can adapt for use with a cellular phone and weighs only 6.5 pounds. It is only two inches high and one foot wide. Acces’ has a built in speaker phone for hands-free conversations and also an external telephone jack for connecting a standard telephone for private conversations. With power provided through the optional cigarette lighter of a car, the fax machine fits on the seat nicely.

Mobile Cellular Phones

OKI Phones

A complete line of cellular phones is offered by OKI Phones of Suwanee, GA. Their mobile phones include such features as: 100 memory locations, 911 dialing capability when locked or restricted, hands-free use, cost-monitoring features and on-hook dialing.

The transportable units are designed for in-vehicle use without permanent installation, so they can be taken from car-to-car or can be battery operated for on-site use. These models include 80 minutes of talk time or 9 hours standby, 100 memory capability and weigh around five pounds.

Portable models offer handheld convenience. They feature many of the options of the other models plus up to 138 minutes of talk time with 18 hours stand-by time. Phones weigh in at a maximum of 18.5 ounces.

What Does Cellular Mean?

How does state-of-the-art cellular technology work? Cellular phone service areas are divided into many small geographic areas called cells, with each served by a radio transmitter/receiver stationed at a cell site. These cell sites are connected by telephone lines to a mobile telephone switching office and from there to the worldwide telephone network.

Each cell has a radius of two to 10 miles, and as the car moves, switching center computers “hand off” or transfer the call to a new channel in the next cell site. This transfer is accomplished instantly without interruption in the call. In the past there were only a few radio channels available for mobile phone service, the cost was high, waiting lists for service were long, and reception was poor. Callers often had to wait up to 30 minutes for a dial tone.

Today’s cellular technology allows almost unlimited usage with high clarity. It’s estimated that more than 5.3 million people in the U.S.and Canada use mobile phone service. Of those, about 70 percent have signed up in the past year. By 1995, the figure is expected to reach 10 million, according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

Cellnet Corporation

Not in the mood to buy a cellular phone? Cellnet Corporation in Stamford, CT, is in the business of owning and operating cellular credit card telephones in “for-hire” transportation company vehicles. Qualified transportation companies can rent a phone for $15 to $50 per month, depending on how many phones the company contracts for. If the airtime for the phone exceeds 49 minutes per month, the rental fee is cut in half. When the airtime exceeds 89 minutes per month, the rental fee is waived and Cellnet begins to pay a percentage of the airtime revenue back to the transportation company in the form of revenue sharing commissions.

Meanwhile, the company has established a NEWS-ON-CALL™ service on its cellular phones. The service provides up to the minute news, sports, weather (34 cities) and traffic as well as comedy, trivia, interactive games, restaurant reviews, airline reservations, and hotel reservations. Customers are billed at a reduced airtime rate of 99 cents per minute. The service can be automatically accessed on CallAboard phones.

Antel Communications

Antel Communications Corporation in Hauppauge, NY manufactures a line of signature Series cellular telephones. The mobile units include models STR-300, STR-500, and STR-700. The company also manufactures three softpack transportable units, one hardpack unit, and one handheld unit. Antel also supplies a full line of accessories for these units as well as vehicular antennas.

NovAtel Carcom

NovAtel Carcom, Inc. in Ft. Worth, TX manufactures a wide variety of cellular mobile products such as handheld portables, mobile telephones, and transportables. In addition, the company offers a full line of cellular accessories, everything from antennas and a battery pack to data interface devices. These products are available through electronic retailers and distributors throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Carribean.

The handheld portable model 825 offers 99-number speed dialing memory positions, a full 0.6 watts of power and a rechargeable battery, and still fits in a coat pocket. The new full-featured hard-pack transportable phone has a long life rechargeable battery which allows you to take it with you anywhere cellular service is available.

The compact softpack cellular telephone gives convenience and flexibility without the necessity of permanent mounting. The carrying case also provides seat belt loops for safety while traveling.


Mitsubishi International Corporation in Wood Dale, IL has several products designed for livery service. The model 3000 cellular phone is the company’s smallest and lightest cellular portable. Among its features are a three watt power booster, cigarette lighter adaptor, and hands-free car kit. The model 800 TPK is the company’s transportable phone. It has 832 channel capability and weighs 4 pounds.

Shintom West

Want a cellular phone with all the bells and whistles? Shintom West Corporation of America in Torrance, CA manufactures the CM-8700 cellular telephone for livery usage. Among numerous other things, the unit features hands free operation, automatic answer, LCD display, memory dialing, numeric and status display indicators, backlit display, and on or off hook dialing.


The CTX 3100 and CTX 4100 cellular mobile telephones from Audiovox Corporation let an operator plug a remote electronic device directly into the telephone to share the cellular feed — no adaptor unit is necessary. The Aux Jack RJ-11 feature built into the phone allows portable computers or fax machines to be plugged into the unit. The phone, which can be removed from the car and plugged into a battery pack to make a truly transportable unit, has numerous features including a call in-absence indicator, security code, and electronic lock.

The CTX 4100 features simplified voice-activated dialing which requires the user to touch only one of the digit keys to access a memory location via voice command.


The CT-102 cellular telephone from Tandy is an ideal tool for staying in touch. The unit has 832-channel capacity, a backlighted display and keyboard, 30-number memory, and hands-free capability. It has three watts, of output power for maximum range and crystal clear reception.

Portable and Transportable Cellular Phones

Clarion Corporation

An owner/operator who also drives is tied to his business 24 hours a day. A portable cellular phone makes it easier to stay on top of the business. Clarion Corporation of America in Gardena, CA manufactures a cellular telephone available in both mobile and transportable configurations. The unit is a hands-free, full duplex cellular phone which can handle 832 channels. Among its features are speed dial memory, last number stack memory, and multi-call timer. The system A/B selector allows five different calling options.

The compact design allows many installation options and for quick transfer between vehicles. The transportable conversion kit lets the user remove the transceiver and handset from the vehicle and attach it to a carrying case.


The Motorola T2600 transportable phone lets you keep in constant touch with your business. Among its features are a full three watts of power, seat belt loops for securing the phone in the vehicle naugehyde case, backlit 10-digit LCD display, a cigarette lighter option that requires no permanent installation, 832 channel capability, memory dialing, and speed dialing. The unit’s battery has a40-minute constant talk time capability before charging is necessary.

The company also manufactures the T15X transportable. The unit has more than two full hours of talk time capability before recharging and weighs only 9.5 pounds. Other features include a battery voltage meter, tone dialing, and an audible keypad tone option.


The Model 800 transportable cellular telephone from Mitsubishi International Corp. is ideal for business in a limousine. Although the unit is small in size, it is big on power with a full three watts when operated from the car battery. It is also big on features like 832 channel operation, dual telephone number capability, and a menu of critical functions. The phone weighs less than five pounds. The configuration also allows the unit to be recharged from household current or from a car’s 12-volt battery. The Model 800 has 100 number memory and a signal strength meter.


The TRAN-55 transportable cellular telephone from Audiovox has a multitude of features and options. The unit comes with a three-year limited warranty, 16digit repertory memory, on-hook dialing, last number redial, electronic lock, and signal strength indicator. Among its options are a microphone for hands-free use,, a battery pack, and an AC charger. It has 832 channel capability and weighs only 2.64 pounds.


Have you ever wanted to get away from it all? Too bad — with the Ultra Classic portable telephone from Motorola Inc. you are reachable at a moments notice. The lightweight unit (16.5 ounces) features an alphabetic directory, 30 hours continuous talk time, and incoming call screening. It has 832 channel capability and a three year limited warranty.

The company also manufactures the BMI HP portable with 32 memory locations, bold LED display, and electronic lock. The PT 500 portable from the company weighs only 12.3 ounces and fits in the face of your hand. The phone is so compact it has a flip open mouthpiece and fits in your pocket.

Fujitsu America

The Commander series of cellular phone equipment from. Fujutsu America, Inc. in Richardson, TX can handle every need of a livery operator. Three models of mobile cellular phones, the ST, FX, and XL, mount in the limousine. The transportable unit and softpack unit are ideal for operators on the go.

Two-way Radios

Midland LMR

In this case, smaller may be better. Midland LMR’s of Kansas City, MO new high-performance SynTech™ two-way mobile radios are 30 percent smaller than previous models and meet MIL specs for ruggedness. Programmable for up to 22 or 99 VHF or UHF channels with channel scan, voice storage, and voice security options.

E.F. Johnson

The Clearchannel LTR® 8620 logic trunked radio system from E.F. Johnson Company in Minneapolis, MN is well suited for livery fleets. The trunk mounted two-way radio system carries 35 watts of power with a frequency range of 806-825 MHz Tx or 851-870 MHz Rx/Tx. The compact unit is two inches high, 6.6 inches wide and 9.8 inches deep. It weighs only 4.2 pounds. Other features include 19 MHz bandwidth plus talkaround.

Midland LMR

Finding a client in a crowded airport terminal is one of a chauffeurs toughest assignments. Portable two-way radios alleviate that problem while maintaining the chauffeur in constant contact with the dispatcher on a private channel with no worries about cellular drop out. Midland LMR of Kansas City, MO has introduced a brand-new line of two-way FM portable radios said to be not only smaller, but also more reliable than was economically practical with previous technology. The series of handheld units are designed for a broad spectrum of users. The line includes more than 30 models with numerous options in a wide range of cost/capability levels. All models are available in VHF or UHF bands.

E.F. Johnson

The 8601 duplex logic trunked radio from E.F. Johnson Company in Minneapolis offers 800 MHz frequency range. The front mounting unit provides 10-15 watts of power and weighs only four pounds. The unit also has a telephone interface module.

Ericsson G.E.

Two-way radio users were pleased when new 900 MHz frequencies were recently allocated. The GE-NET MTL Portable radio from Ericsson GE Mobile Communications in Lynchburg, VA is able to provide all the advantages of trunking in those cities where 800 MHz frequencies are unavailable. Special features include digital channel selection, privacy, priority group scan, and multi-mode system coverage.



Limousine operators can receive up to 44 messages with the Panadata400, a new alphanumeric display pager from Panasonic Communications & Systems Company Telecommunications Division.

Designed to deliver complete messages, the Panadata 400 will store up to 44 different messages containing a total of 4,000 characters in the memory.

The sleek unit features a slanted LCD display that can display up to 36 characters at a time, and the pager includes an automatic back light for added nighttime viewing convenience. Three Cap Codes with a total of 12 addresses allow plenty of memory for business and personal messages and on-line data services.


The Antenna Specialists

A two-way radio isn’t any good if it doesn’t cover a wide transmission area. The type of antenna has a lot to do with that. The Antenna Specialists Co. in Cleveland, OH has introduced a convenient, temporary-mount cellular antenna with ON-GLASS® performance especially useful with portable and transportable phones. The window clip mount, cellular antenna provides 3dB gain and its cable stays inside the vehicle, thereby preventing leakage of weather stripping seals. It is compatible with future digital cellular systems.

The Antenna Company

No operator wants to fumble with their cellular antenna. The Antenna Company in Broadview, IL manufactures a line of cellular antennas, mounts, and accessories. The K-2+™ cellular glass mount and the Mighty-Mount™ cellular phone mounts are the newest products. The K-2+ glass mount is an improved version of the K-2 glass mount. Using 3M’s VHB tape, the antenna eliminates the need for silicone. The Whisper™ mast eliminates annoying whistle. Both products are made in the USA.


Chauffeurs driving a lengthy stretch often wish they had eyes in the back of their head. Clarion’s rear view camera and monitor system was developed for use on large vehicles such as RVs and limousines. The two system components — the camera and monitor — are among the smallest on the market. The compact lightweight camera is designed so that it fits snugly on the back of the vehicle. Because of the solid state imagery, the picture reproduced on the monitor does not have the typical “comet tail trailing” effect. The monitor, which is installed in the dash, has a 4 5-inch screen with a high resolution picture.

Shure Brothers

One of the frequent concerns of livery operators calling their chauffeurs on the two-way radio or cellular telephone is that the driver’s hand must leave the wheel to use the communications device. ClearVoice by Shure Brothers in Evanston, IL is a microphone and dual low-noise amplifier system that attaches to the seat belt. The unit helps eliminate vox system cut-off which “clips” off the first syllable of the first word you speak. It makes the chauffeurs driving “safer” than it normally would be.

Lyman Electric Products

Chauffeur to client conversation is made easier as well as distinguished with limousine intercoms from Lyman Electric Products in Norwalk, CT. The company offers four models from which to choose with quantity and introductory discounts on all models. Catalogs are available.


The Cellular Connection Series of interface accessories from Motorola allow an operator to hook a number of electronic devices into the cellular telephone. The unit allows for mobile applications of personal computers with autodial/autoanswer modems, answering machines, portable fax machines, broadcast industry remote feeds, mobile telemetry equipment, and public (pay) phone interface. It also has the capability of amplifying the handsets in noisy environments.

PowerStar Products

Ever have a client that wanted to make frozen Daiquiris in the back of your limousine? Now that client can plug his blender and other household appliances into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter using the POW200 inverter from PowerStar Products, Inc. in Cupertino, CA.

Related Topics: cellphones, history of mobile phones, mobile technology, vehicle technology

LCT Staff LCT Staff
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
Onboard intelligent tracking systems can document data for a wide range of motorcoach functions, such as engine status and maintenance, vehicle and driver performance, and driver hours, all while communicating pre-set and customized alerts and notifications in real-time.

Driving More Dollar$ With Data

NOV. LCT: Product review - two leading systems provide a constant stream of information that can help operators wring out efficiencies.